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Linux Software

Perception of Linux Among IT Undergrads 893

iconian writes: "The Linux Journal has a story on IT students and their perception of Linux. One of the funnier myths perceived to be true is that 'Microsoft's technical support is the best in the industry and is superior to that offered by the Linux community.' It just goes to show how little real world experience students have. It's a bit disturbing considering they will be the next generation of technology workers."
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Perception of Linux Among IT Undergrads

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  • I didn't finish my undergrad work yet, and took a job in the linux field. Love linux, hated learning crap MS propoganda in school, so I left... Will finish eventually, but not yet... Enjoying what I do way too much... :)

    ps- First Post?
  • by oyenstikker ( 536040 ) <slashdotNO@SPAMsbyrne.org> on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @06:52PM (#2723127) Homepage Journal
    Best tech support in the world? #debian and #linpeople on irc.openprojects.net. They correctly diagnosed my problem (use of windows) and helped me get a really nice solution (linux) running.
    • Re:tech support (Score:5, Insightful)

      by skroz ( 7870 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @07:09PM (#2723316) Homepage
      This will probably get modded as flaimbait or something, but here goes...

      From a corporate perspective, IRC is very, very far from legitimate or reliable tech support. Same goes for usenet. People want a phone number that they can call and get an answer RIGHT NOW. Or if they don't get one RIGHT NOW, they want to know that a technician is working on the problem until it's solved.

      There's very little of such support available in the world of Linux right now. RedHat is getting there, and LinuxCare used to be on its way.(they're gone now, right?) So yeah, in the realm of Tech Support with capital letters, MS blows linux away.

      But you're right. I get answers faster through IRC and/or USENET posts than though MS tech support almost every time.
      • From a corporate perspective, IRC is very, very far from legitimate or reliable tech support. Same goes for usenet. People want a phone number that they can call and get an answer RIGHT NOW. Or if they don't get one RIGHT NOW, they want to know that a technician is working on the problem until it's solved.

        Which they don't get from Microsoft. Except for the phone number.

        Ergo the original conclusion, college kids don't have much real world experience. I think it's similar to a political campaign. Doesn't matter what "true" is; whoever hollers longest and loudest wins.

        • Re:tech support (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Lemmy Caution ( 8378 )
          They get a ticket number. They get a phone number that they can call back, and a person's name, and an escalation path. If they are large corporate customers, that path can get to the development and QA departments.

          Most commercial software has a two-way communication between QA and support. Last I checked, the people on #linux didn't have direct and constant access to the bug-tracking databases for each and every linux application that popped up.

          There are some development efforts in linux that have good 2-way communication like that - abiword, for example. But for the most part, there's nothing comparable to the relatively few players you have to deal with in the commercial world.

      • Re:tech support (Score:4, Interesting)

        by DavidJA ( 323792 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @07:56PM (#2723650)

        But you're right. I get answers faster through IRC and/or USENET posts than though MS tech support almost every time

        My $0.02 - We had a problem with Services For Mac on a win2k server - it was causing the SYSTEM process to go to 100% and stay there. Logged a call, paid the $200. - Got first level support on the phone withing in 10 minutes - Useless as tits on a bull. They basicly search the KB for you. - Then the problem was escalated to regional support.

        Got a phone call from a guy called Leon Booth @ microsoft regional support, and he was FANTASTIC! - Got a direct phone number @ e-mail to use for communicating with him for the length of this problem.

        To cut a long story short, 2 days later still no success, so we started monitoring thread creation calls (they send some utilities to do this) - Leon sent this to the guys that wrote the services for mac service, they suggested a registry hack, which actaully fixed the problem.

        Our support guy was saying that if it did not fix the problem the MS would send a tech out with a debug box? (a box that sits next to our server and traces every call), and send the results to the US for analysis - all for the $200. Now try and get that service from a guy at the end of IRC!

        Anyway, Leon organised a refund of the $200 support charge because it was deamed a 'bug'

  • Not surprised (Score:3, Insightful)

    by msuzio ( 3104 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @06:52PM (#2723130) Homepage
    I'm hardly shocked. This is just the next generation of suits that I saw cranked out in the late 90s... mindless Visual Basic drones who couldn't program their way out of a paper bag, the schlocks who got all As but couldn't think on their toes to solve real problems.

    For the most part, we wouldn't hire them to work at the on-campus computer labs. They could never debug problems unless they had the manuals open, and even then... fat chance.

    These are the future ineffectual middle-managers, the guys who got into computers because 4 years ago, they were told dot.com was the way to go... oops, sorry kids, no jobs for you! (*)

    (*) unless your frat buddies get them for you, but we'll know that's how you got in, and we'll make you pay for it ;-)
    • by FireballFreddy ( 472710 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @07:19PM (#2723390)
      This is one more reason people turn to Windows instead of Linux: The uber-geek egotistical superiority complex of the loudest Linux users. And unfortunately, the loudest are the ones who get heard.

      Do you even realize what you just wrote? You completely discounted about about 7 years worth of students (assuming "late 90s" includes 1995 forward). Well guess what? I graduated in the "late 90s" and I was in love with UNIX. And it was taught to me by others who would also graduate in the "late 90s". They taught me about all kinds of flavors (FreeBSD, Solaris, Irix, HP-UX, and Ultrix to name a few). And yes, even Linux (I popped my cherry on Slackware).

      I think we can all agree, each class has those who exceed, those who do just enough to pass, and those who suck. Those who suck are probably too lazy to learn Visual Basic, so screw them. Those who do just enough to pass might not be "Uber-Geeks", but they'll get jobs doing the easier work, and get paid handsomely for it. Good for them. They probably don't want to work in your on-campus lab anyway, since you sound about as friendly and willing to teach as the BOFH.

      As for those who exceed... let's just hope they can work their magic without being as jaded and biased as you seem to be.

    • Re:Not surprised (Score:5, Insightful)

      by psxndc ( 105904 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @09:15PM (#2724042) Journal
      *bzzzz* Thanks for playing. As someone that graduated in '98 with a CS degree, I can tell you I didn't touch VB while in school. We had only one MS machine in my department, and that was my senior year.

      You are right and wrong on one account though: I couldn't program my way out of a paper bag because I WAS learning how to solve real problems. Most of the stuff I did was all theory and enough programming to illustrate it. Did I master C? Not really, but enough to solve problems in my OS class. Did I talk about Lisp in my sleep? No, but I knew enough to create a variation on battleship for my AI class. Is ORCA useful for anything nonacademic or does anyone actually use the Amoeba distriubted OS? No, but it taught me to think that way. My Computer Science degree was just that: Computer SCIENCE. I've had enough of a problem solving background to figure out a way to do almost anything I put my mind to, including installing, running and progrmming for Linux. I'd rather hire someone who thinks about a problem first and then applies what they know to it, including where to look if they don't know the answer.

      Lastly, it's been my experience that at most computer labs the staff has been the more clueless than those asking the questions.


  • by nam37 ( 517083 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @06:53PM (#2723142) Homepage
    Don't get me wrong, I'm no MS lover, but do you REALLY honestly feel Linux has better techsupport than MS products??

    Basically, in the past when Ive had a NT/2000 or MSSQL issues I've paid my $200 bucks and got it worked out... everytime. Its not free or fun, but generally MS's paid corporate support is actually quite efficient.

    Anytime I've had a Linux issue I have basically been told to RTFM.
    • Not only do I 100% agree with the "RTFM" comment I can also add that the last time I submitted a bug report to Microsoft (scripting engine problem with the Visual Studio IDE) they *phoned* me back to walk me through the fix.

      Also, I want to add that I really love MSDN.


    • by Anonymous Coward
      "Anytime I've had a Linux issue I have basically been told to RTFM."

      Usually if a newbie is told to RTFM, that is because their question is answered there.

      What I like to do when asked questions that are already answered in TFM is to add WHICH manual to look in to my RTFM.

      Normally newbies interpret RTFM to mean: this guy is a total asshole, and doesn't want to help me. If you tell them which manual in addition, they'll be more likely to understand that you did in fact answer their question. Its not like it takes any more effort to say "RTFM; man foo" or "RTFM; www.google.com"
    • by elias142857 ( 205791 ) <(elias) (at) (cse.ucsc.edu)> on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @07:07PM (#2723297)
      Next time you have a linux problem, send me $200 and I'll RTFM for you.
    • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @07:24PM (#2723430) Homepage
      mysql trouble - $150-200 bucks and the trouble is worked out.

      Redhat trouble - About the same.

      Linux technical support is identical to Microsofts. you just have to ask the right people. asking in a IRC channel is NOT product support, you didint go to IRC asking about the MSSQL problems did you? why did you do the same for linux?

      It's unfair comparasions like this that support the FUD out there.
    • by JabberWokky ( 19442 ) <slashdot.com@timewarp.org> on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @07:34PM (#2723520) Homepage Journal
      Basically, in the past when Ive had a NT/2000 or MSSQL issues I've paid my $200 bucks and got it worked out... everytime. Its not free or fun, but generally MS's paid corporate support is actually quite efficient.

      Show me a student with $200 to fork over for support. On the other hand, show me a student who could use learning about databases by setting one up. I have SAP, Sybase, Oracle and MySQL discs lying around that I got for free by writing to the companies. They aren't all licensed for commercial use, but they all have kickass support - and the Open Source one has some of the best, for free, pay by incident and contract.

      If you're not talking "support for a student" level stuff, I've had eight Oracle consultants under my department farting away time in the cubicles we provided as they played the blame game with IBM over an Oracle on AIX installation... for nearly three weeks. In retrospect, walking in and wiping all partitions and telling them to rebuild the damn installation would have been quicker and cheaper. When I needed support from TCX, I had bought a year of support, ran into a problem with a persistant connect through a firewall. I gave them an account on my system, went home, came back the next day, and *they* had called the firewall company, gotten support, and had provided precise step by step instructions to fix the problem... on the firewall. They knew it wasn't their problem - but they got it working.

      You're the one who brought up Databases, so I figured I'd reply in that vein. As for Linux itself, I've *never* run into a problem that a little Google or mailing list archive searching didn't resolve quickly.


      • You're the one who brought up Databases, so I figured I'd reply in that vein. As for Linux itself, I've *never* run into a problem that a little Google or mailing list archive searching didn't resolve quickly.
        Same thing here. But the funniest is that in about 25% of the time, the solution Google found is written in german or in flemish, two languages I don't have any notion of. But the commands did seem to make sense, and when I tried them, it solved the problem...
    • by Gleef ( 86 )
      nam37 writes:

      when Ive had a NT/2000 or MSSQL issues I've paid my $200 bucks and got it worked out... everytime.

      If everytime I've had an issue with a Microsoft product, I've paid the $200 to open a trouble ticket with the dialup support, the non-profit organization for which I work would have gone broke. To that end, I haven't tried their phone support.

      I have tried other companies phone support (iPlanet, Network Associates, FICS, off the top of my head), and generally found phone support to be a useless waste of time and money. Often I find I know more about the product than the person I'm paying to help me with it. I avoid it whenever I can.

      On the other end of tech support, their manuals and documentation, I do have a MSDN Unlimited subscription, which gives me access to a large quantity of their technical documentation both on and offline. I have to say their documentation has some good parts, more than I had expected. I also have to say that the indexing(offline) and searching(online) features of their library are very very poor, and often inaccurate. This makes their documentation much harder to use.

      Likewise, I have never tried Linuxcare or any of the other Linux telephone support people. I have found documentation for a typical Free Software package more complete (with a few exceptions) and much better organized (with a few exceptions). Also, with a Free Software package, you have the ultimate canonical documentation, the source code.

      Anytime I've had a Linux issue I have basically been told to RTFM.

      If you haven't read the manual, you shouldn't be asking on the lists/IRC chanels/newsgroups/whatever, nobody is on the list to read the manual for you. If you are looking for someone to hold your hand so you don't have to read documentation, hire a consultant.

      Whenever I've made sure to read the existing documentation first, and made sure to ask a mailing list having something to do with the package I'm having trouble with, I've often gotten higher quality help faster than I've ever gotten with any corporate phone support.
  • Real Example. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by saintlupus ( 227599 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @06:53PM (#2723148) Homepage
    One of my interns at work is a CS undergrad, and I think he's pretty typical of the breed. Talks about Linux all the time to be 'leet, but still gave me a resume done in Word on his pirated Win2K partition.

    Schools are a tough nut to crack for OSS, because students have no moral qualms about piracy and a lot of professors demand closed file formats for assignments to be electronically filed.


    • It's easier to copy an MS Office CD, install it and write the resume than it is to either

      a. Download open office, install and use that
      b. Use TeX
      c. Admit you suck and use an AbiWord rpm/deb ;)
    • Re:Real Example. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by friedmud ( 512466 )
      I understand what you are trying to say - but the resume thing is a poor example.

      I personally use Linux as my main OS (read as 90% of my computing time - the other 10% is Black and White playing). But... My resume is still done in Word2k.

      Why? Well, I first did it years ago in Word95. When I opened it in StarOffice 5.2 - it opened just fine (I use a bunch of crazy formatting to make it all fit so I was amazed). So I thought, great! But then I edited it in SO and saved it in Word format and e-mailed it to myself so I could print it out at Kinko's. Lo and behold when I got to kinkos and opened it - almost all of the formatting was lost and I had to redo the whole thing in Word2k. (have recently tried beta6 with same results)

      I wouldn't want a potential job to be given to someone else because their formatting stayed, and mine didn't - so I am going to stick with using Word2k for my resume.

      My School is great (UMR [umr.edu]) - we even learn assembly on Sparc processors, and we usually don't have to code in any particular language or for any particular OS. But unfortunately most HR departments out there are not so open, and Word is the defacto standard, so that is what I have to use.

      BTW - This post stuck out to me because I use a pirated copy of Win2k and Office2k to do my Resume - so you really struck a nerve.

      • You should perhaps try saving the document as RTF. Since it's an open format, everyone can ensure that their implimentation follows the standard. Word will by default open RTFs just like DOC files, so it won't cause any problems on anyone else's end either.
    • by amccall ( 24406 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @09:11PM (#2724022) Homepage
      First off, I don't think that you can lump all the CS undergrads into one big group, because their backgrounds are fairly diversed.

      My perception is somewhat similar. But, from what I've seen of the students with these amoral views, trying to look 1337, is that they generally mature, or they crack and become business majors or MCSE's.

      Closed file formats are a big problem, and I don't think some profs realize what they are doing. Generally there are way's around this type of crap if you want to put forth the effort: My CS prof asked that all projects be turned in as Window's EXE's. My solution was to install linux mingw32 and setup wine, but I could have just as easily borrowed someone's W2K setup disks, and got a copy VC++. Need a .doc file? Use staroffice. Unsure of the results? Check it in the lab.

      • For written assignments, I was able to convince most of my professors to accept HTML documents instead of MS-Word based .DOC files and turned in many assignments by just sending the URL in an e-mail.

        The first step was to specify the assignment in number of words, 200 or 500 words instead of 1/2 page or 1 page. After that, it was sort of a carrot and stick thing.


        • My web pages worked in their favorite browsers.
        • The web was (still is) trendy.
        • Macro- and VBS-based MSTDs galore
        • 6 different OS+version combinations of MS-Word on our campus gave constant rendering and compatibility problems.

        Use the office hours to find a way in which they are willing to try it and be prepared to meet them more than half way. If you make the experience convenient and useful, then they'll also tell they colleagues. But if you don't ask, you don't get.

  • by Big_Lamer ( 65521 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @06:55PM (#2723164) Homepage
    >One of the funnier myths perceived to be true is that 'Microsoft's technical support is the best in the industry and is superior to that
    >offered by the Linux community.'

    While I can not speak to using the pay-per-use support of the Linux Vendors, if you use Microsoft's Incident based support system, It is really really damn good. I have not contacted any other Vendors where you can call w/ a technical support problem and speak to the developers of the application at 11:00 at night.

    Please do not flame... I am not saying that the Linux community provides bad support. In terms of free support services, they kick M$ ass.... I am only speaking to my experience w/ Microsoft's Pay-per-incident support....
    • I too have used Microsoft's Incident based suport system on a crashed Exchange 5.5 server. The dude on the other end was awesome, and when he didn't know what to do in 10 seconds he had another person conferenced in that did. They stuck with me through to the end. This is the only time I have used, but I certainly wouldn't hesitate to use it again.
    • Yeah, they've done a great job for me in charging $300 or whatever it was, not solving the problem, then closing the ticket with an unresolved answer.

      Their support is a joke if you're asking a question where something actually went wrong, instead of it being a problem between the keyboard and the chair.

      (Just a note, they have always refunded the money a month or two after deducing that they had no fucking clue what was wrong though)

      • by Anonymous Coward
        You just proved you trolling buddy.
        The tickets don't get closed unless you confirm the problem is resolved

        So you're either full of it or you gave up.
      • by DeadPrez ( 129998 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @07:45PM (#2723588) Homepage
        I have to defend Microsoft in the tech support department. I have called a few times for help recovering an exchange crash and they are very good. I believe the guys that actually do the support are heavily involved with the programming. I even got follow up calls to make sure everything was still working properly so they could close the ticket. A+

        On the other hand, I only needed the help I recieved due to technet not having the help I needed (disaster recovery document is missing one vital step). Seems like a setup to force you to call and pay for tech support.
    • by mattdm ( 1931 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @07:37PM (#2723541) Homepage

      Huh. A few years ago I had a problem with Windows NT 4 where it was sometimes having trouble exchanging packets with other machines on the local network. Finally broke down and called the Microsoft pay-per-incident line, and after an hour or so of trying things, the guy had me remove and reinstall the TCP/IP stack, which solved the problem. I asked what he thought might have been the issue, and he said " Oh, it does that sometimes. "

      Now, in all fairness, they may have gotten better since then, and I've heard good things technically (leaving aside ethically and morally) about their more modern offerings. But I've always thought "Windows: it does that sometimes" made a pretty good slogan.

    • About two months ago, we had a server that was having problems seeing its partitions after moving to 'dynamic' storage from 'basic'. Our Windows expert took his best crack at it, but couldn't get it to play right. (This guy has been using Windows NT since version 3.0 and knows his stuff). He said that the problem is that the conversion is a one way path - no backtracking. So we finally break down, and pay Microsoft for a support incident. The technician we get puts us through all the basic steps, and doesn't know how to fix it. So he says 'convert from dynamic to basic', to which we reply "are you sure? Are you really, really sure?"

      We do it. Server is trashed.

      Well, we kick ourselves because we should have known better than to trust someone else with a really big problem. One of our managers wants a refund, though. And Microsoft tech support says no. Their position is that they did provide support - just not very good support. Specifically, they cannot guarantee results (which is reasonable). Still, the ill will they have instilled in us is substantial. Goes to show the point made in the article: with a lack of real experience, all people will know is what they heard from the marketing guys.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Come on, guys .. I like Linux just as much as the next guy does, but I would hardly call it a "myth" to say that Microsoft's tech support is far better than anything you'll get with a Linux-based solution. Is it expensive? Sure. Is it cumbersome? Maybe. But at least it's there. Telling somebody to go out and read some FAQ or ask a question to a newsgroup isn't going to do much good, particularly if that person doesn't know what a FAQ or a newsgroup is.

    Most IT undergrads these days don't know a lot about the Internet (or at least, they don't know a lot about it yet.) These are kids that were born in the mid 1980s, for crying out loud. When the average /. reader went to school, we had a background with an Internet that had never heard of the "World Wide Web", we posted to USENET religiously, and many of us were subscribers to the venerable SF-LOVERS list. ;-)

    The kids these days don't know much beyond Internet Explorer and Visual Basic and all those sorts of things because by and large, they haven't been exposed to the real world yet. Now this doesn't mean they won't be eventually, but at the current time their experience is limited. That aside, I still think we need to consider that the point is valid. Microsoft's tech support is better than anything you'll get with Linux-based solutions .. this doesn't mean that Microsoft's solutions are any better, just that they're more established.

    That's okay, it gives us something to work on. ;-)
  • It just goes to show how little real world experience students have. It's a bit disturbing considering they will be the next generation of technology workers.

    Having just finished my BSc in Computer Science, I've found that those who want real world experience will go out and find it on their own. Formal education is there to assist your learning, not to spoon-feed you.

    Alot of the students are at school for the piece of paper, not to learn and enjoy the subject matter. We attempt to filter job applicants based on a "geekiness" scale to help remove those who are not interested in the field.

    Beware TPB

    • Filter job applicants by "geekiness"? What company do you work for? I'll send my resume right away.

      Real world experience: those who draw up the job requirement guidelines and sift through the resumes look for one thing - a BS in CS or Electrical Engineering or some such, irregardless of whether it is even APPLICABLE to the position. If the choice falls between the idiot with a CS degree and 2 years of helpdesk, and the guy with a liberal arts degree but 5 years of HARD experience and increasing levels of responsibility - the pointy haired idjuts who do the resume-sifting will hire the CS moron.

      Be glad you have your piece of paper. It will be the difference between a job and the unemployment line.

  • Microsoft support (Score:5, Informative)

    by trippd6 ( 20793 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @06:59PM (#2723216) Homepage
    Microsoft support can be good. It all depends...

    One of the factors is if you're calling them at random, or you have a support aggrement. You ALWAYS pay for support from microsoft. It doesn't come with any product.

    THe last place I worked at, we had a microsoft select agreement. Boy is that a deal. (Hahah). We got 150 incedents for $50,000. Sounds crazy, but, it was worth it... To bad we could never use 150 incedents, even if we tried. (150 people in the company, 5 IT people).

    The cool thing about the select agreement, is you get a TAM (Technical account manager) that can esclate your call. Plus, he has like 10 customers, so he pays close attention to every case. Its kinda cool when he checks in to see if you were happy with a case.

    With a select agreement, you get access to subscriber downloads, which rocks. You can download anything microsoft ever released (Well almost). Wanted to try BOB? go for it. MSDOS 5 in chinese, its there.

    Some of thier best support people are in thier exchange support group. The reason being, exchange is a POS that needs alot of attention, and fixing database curruption is a bitch.

  • by Dizzo ( 443720 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @07:00PM (#2723223)
    Here's a review of how well MS's tech support really works: http://www.bmug.org/news/articles/MSvsPF.html [bmug.org]
  • by oldmildog ( 533046 )
    Not surprising that kids coming out of college are blind to real life, considering how Microsoft-centric the world has become. It's a self-perpetuating problem: college kids only know Microsoft, so that's the only thing they'll push. Since it's the only thing they'll push, it's the only thing that will sell. Etc ad nauseum.

    As somebody that supports a product that runs on both MS and UNIX, I've run into so many techs for whom Microsoft is a religion. They'd rather stretch the limits of running the product on MS, instead of sticking it on a Sun box where it'll crank along, because MS is the only system they know in-house. So the product runs slow... and I look bad. But you can't fault them too much: it's all they know. I blame their CIO for not being more aware of what's going on in the world.

    And don't get me started on what a useless certification an MCSE is. It was time wasted for me to get one, and I would maybe pay it passing glance on a candidate's resume if I were hiring someone.

  • Clanger is right. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Exmet Paff Daxx ( 535601 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @07:02PM (#2723255) Homepage Journal
    The students felt that "The KDE/GNOME choice confuses most newcomers to Linux."

    This is listed by the author as a "clanger", or repeatedly offered mistruth. I wholehartedly agree with him. As an experienced Linux user, I feel that the KDE/GNOME choice does not confuse most newcomers to Linux, it confuses nearly all of them, as well as experienced users. What the students should have said was "the KDE/GNOME choice confuses everybody".

    I'm so tired of having to decide which featureset I want to use today. For C++ development I use Kdevelop, because of the nice C++ features like picklists for virtual functions. However I can't stand KDE's tendency to map its' own colors onto my X applications, nor can I take it desktop switching mode, so for casual web browsing I restart in Gnome. This means that I've had to memorize two control panels, two ways of resizing Xterms (I hate both their Xterm replacements), two ways of virtual desktop switching, etc. If there's anything that's important about the desktop metaphor it is that the metaphor must be intuitive. The problem with choice is that it requires you to gain knowledge in order to make an informed decision. To gain knowledge you have to spend time learning. When I pick up a lab instrument I don't want to spend time learning how to use it's desktop; I don't freaking care how it works. I want to use the instrument.

    The GNOME/KDE choice is annoying. Honestly I don't care which one goes away, I just wish one of them would.
    • by jafac ( 1449 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @07:12PM (#2723344) Homepage
      kde vs. gnome didn't confuse me. It just frustrated, then bored me, then drove me to Mac OS X.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Does KDevelop for some reason not work with GNOME? Does your web browser not work with KDE?

      I mean, they're just X clients, right? And you have all the necessary support libs, right?

      So, what's the problem? Just use the desktop environment or window manager of your choice and all your applications of choice.
    • by Danse ( 1026 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @07:20PM (#2723395)

      I like competition that creates better products. I like the fact that we have 2 good desktop environments to choose from. If you don't like having a choice, then just flip a coin to pick one and block the other one out of your mind. Ignore any articles that mention it. If a co-worker speaks the offending name, put your hand up in his face to silence him, then walk away. Before you know it, Linux will seem just like Windows to you. This method will work for most other situations in which you face a choice too.

    • That's a pretty silly attitude. If one of them went away, you would just have to deal with the bad features of the other. This way you can pick and choose what you like.
    • by Otter ( 3800 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @07:30PM (#2723473) Journal
      I dunno -- I've never heard a Linux newbie complain about having to choose between KDE and Gnome. I've also never heard them complain about being offered a choice between KOffice and Star Office, pico and joe, Galeon and Konqueror, zsh and ksh, or any of the other decisions that supposedly make Linux difficult for newbies. On the contrary, they generally seem to take whatever their distro gives them as the default, and if they stick with Linux, take to gleefully flaming the alternative they've never seen.

      What does bother them (again, this is in my experience) is a) Linux isn't whatever OS they're used to, b) it doesn't have Office, c) problems with hardware support (although I've had better luck with Linux than with Windows) and d) it doesn't offer a compelling reason to leave the OS they've already paid for and know how to use.

      Incidentally, as far as your own situation, I don't understand (not flaming, just suggesting) why you don't either just run KDevelop and your preferred terminal in Gnome or spend five minutes looking through the KDE Control Center and changing the things you're complaining about, all of which are in there.

    • I couldn't agree more. I think the KDE/Gnome debate is emblematic of everything that's wrong with OSS--in spite of the claims that it is a beautiful example of what's right with it. Rather than putting all of the community's resources behind generating the best software possible, the resources are divided into a conflict that is essentially ego-driven.

      Could I set up my box to do exactly what I want? Of course. But I have other, better ways to spend my time, and I don't want to. So I use my Linux boxes for the things that I like doing in Linux, and my Win98 box for things I find convenient to do in Windows. Anyone who wants to say that I am not a "real geek" because of that is welcome to; I would simply encourage them to think about that very hard the next time he or she laments the difficulty Linux has in making real inroads onto the desktop.

      The resources of the OSS community are limited, and too few to waste. Gnome and KDE would set a terrific example if they would get together, rationally and unemotionally select the most desirable features from each, and include them in the one frontrunning Linux desktop. It should be aimed squarely at Windows and at demonstrating that Linux is in fact ready for the desktop.

      Anyone who doesn't like Linux emulating Windows, well, the beauty of OSS is, I suppose, that he can go make his own.

    • I never did understand this problem. They work really well together, and honestly, the average user is hardly aware that a program they are running is a gnome or kde program at all. To the user, a program is a program. Period.

      There is nothing that says you can't run kdevelop in GNOME if you so desired. The desktops are there for choice, not to obligate you to use them.

      As a developer, you probably would want to have the flexibility to see what your program looked like in each environment as much as a web page designer would like to say what his/her page looks like in different browsers.
    • The last time I had a terrible dilemma with the choice of a user interface was when I chose bash over ksh.
  • by Magus311X ( 5823 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @07:04PM (#2723270)
    You need to know where to look.

    A few weeks ago the Exchange 2000 server decided it was going to roll over and die and to corrupt the mailbox stores with it. We tried restoring (which took 30 minutes to pull off of tape) but it was a no go. When the system state backups didn't fly, we realized we might need to rebuild the server from scratch...

    Instead of wasting 2 hours pulling off a stock Win2K Server image and reconfiguring everything, MS support actually referenced a few obscure cases and we had it resolved in about 25 minutes.

    A few months before a power surge sporked out a rackmount running Samba on Linux 2.4.x. Fsck laughed at us and we had a LOT of data to pull off too. It was going to take about 3 hours to restore the data from tapes. So we gave IBM a call while we were restoring. Only took about 20 or so minutes to get an answer and back up and running.

    Verdict? I don't see any problem with Linux support as long as you have a contract of sorts. I wouldn't dare leave big messes or small disasters to usenet or forums -- for ANY OS. That's fine for configuration quirks, or trying something new on a test server, but when something needs to be fixed and you've tried everything in the run book, you need someone you can rely on.

    And for the record, with the exception of a burp each, both the Linux and Windows 2000 servers are humming along without a problem. I have no real preference -- they each do their job and do it well.

  • I agree. At my old school (mid-sized public school) senior classmates couldn't use the console version of emacs (no mouse manipulatable menu). I have to admit, I'm not a superior emacs user, but I am quite familiar with my editor of choice (vi, well make that vim)

  • Dead On (Score:4, Insightful)

    by chicagothad ( 227885 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @07:07PM (#2723302)
    I work for a corporation doing production support for large scale internet systems based on M$ technology. I absolutely agree with the statement "Microsoft technical support is superior". Why?

    1) Whenever I have a SERIOUS problem with the guts of something run by microsoft. I have actually had them custom write a fix for me for the OS.

    2) At the end of the day, I need someone to strangle. Am I going to go tell the CIO of a Fortune 500 company that some hack coder added something to the kernel that screwed us?

    3) I know EXACTLY who to call. Who do I call for a Linux issue? Redhat? IBM? Who did I buy it from? Who is supporting it?

    Redhat has done wonders for the industry. But I need ONE vendor to contact for ALL my issues who has deep expertise in all aspects of the software. I can't go to Linuxcare or any third party. I want to be on Linux...but I am running these systems on Sun and M$ for just this reason

    • Re:Dead On (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rtaylor ( 70602 )
      Funny, calling MS about issues with AutoCad or Oracle hasn't ever gotten us anywhere. We always had to call the company who we bought the product from.

      However RedHat will support anything on their distribution CDs and I know where I can find BSD support for damn near anything (most of the core team is available for around $350 US an hour for phone support, Jordan used to do onsite support for a little more plus airfare -- and they'll support 75% of the ports tree (6000+ programs)).

      MS supports what they ship, just like Oracle, Redhat, PGSQL Inc, and various other companies support their own products.

      It's seldom that you can call a single vendor unless it's Dell or Gateway as you've had custom configured boxes sent your way -- in which case they support exactly what they ship too!
  • All around me i see people try linux, and schools starting to use it in projects. As a good geek, i helpt out and promote the greatest OS [debian.org] known to man to the masses on a day to day basis.

    Microsoft is increasing prices, the IT sector is having a hard time, but coding and improving opensource software hasn't stopped (Gnome 2.0, KDE 3, Open Office, all major distributions have released or are planning to release new distro's, Mozilla becoming better than sex(r), Evolution 1.0, PostgreSQL (and Mysql, kinda) being a condender to all major databases, and not to forget 2.4.* becoming more stable everyday (okay, it doesn't go okay EVERYday...), and the list goes on and on )

    And, besides all these really nice goodies, more and more people are trying out Linux and opensource software. It's becoming more and more mainstream everyday. A whole army of teenagers are experimenting with Linux on a day to day basis. Don't worry about the next generation(r), just wait and see. By the time all you 1-st generation hackers are retiered, Open Source software will be used and known by everyone one on a day to day basis. Server, workstation, embedded, mobile or wearable.
    Have a bit of faith ;)

    the next generation :)

  • by Perianwyr Stormcrow ( 157913 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @07:10PM (#2723327) Homepage
    You're comparing Microsoft corporate support offerings to random hobbyist support offerings.

    Wait, wait, for my next trick, I think I'll compare the support you can get from your 20-year-old son for Windows to a Red Hat corporate support plan.

    It would be wiser to compare the support from an actual Linux company, such as Red Hat or IBM, to that of Microsoft.
  • That's Because... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @07:11PM (#2723337) Homepage Journal
    Most of those Undergrads now, as they were a decade ago, are in it for the money. They're not hackers. They don't have that drive to learn everything about the systems they're working on. They want to get out of college and land a $60K a year job, work 9 to 5, and not think about computers otherwise.

    Of 150 freshmen I had regular contact with in college, there were 3 (including myself) who were really interested in computers. I bet a similar ratio groks Linux (Maybe it'll say in the story once their poor server recovers from its harsh slashdotting.)

  • ... is no one. Not Microsoft, not Sun, not IBM or CA or anybody else. Support for the IT industry from major software vendors is still enourmously lacking in all respects (don't get me started on the hardware folks, who it seems have 1 asshole for every 10 good people and I always get the asshole).

    Now, many people will tell you that the reason support sucks is because of the profit "thing". The idea of "1 phone call in and there goes the profit for the shrinkwrap version" is ridiculous given the price of software, but still bandied about by everyone, including Microsoft. The hardware guys of course *can* make this argument since a few calls from granny and her brand new Gateway seriously cuts into the company's already strenuously thin margin.

    Having said that, I can't agree with the assertions made by the distinguished submitter of this article (never mind that I don't really care what IT undergrads think). Microsoft's tech support, at the consumer level, sucks. But then so does IBM's and Oracle's and, for that matter, RedHat.

    At the more advanced (and expensive) level, Microsoft support changes dramatically and becomes actually very good. Surprisingly good, even. My experience with 2nd and 3rd tier Oracle and IBM (software) support also confirms this. I only have consumer-level experience with RedHat (the first and last box I ever bought from them before I started downloading ISOs myself), and it sucked. Can anybody comment on the quality of high-level support from them or some other "we don't sell but we service" Linux/OSS companies?

    I'm sure there are as many "he told me to RTFM" stories from users in both sides of the fence.
  • COuple of times we were working under NT trying to get a web application out the door and called per-incident support. I was told in one case 'we don't support that' and in another 'it'll be fixed in the next service pack', the service pack being months down the road. We had customers hounding us to get the product shipped and MS left us twisting in the wind. I would much rather have to RTFM or hack a code base, because it will be done as a *high* priority project.

    That's when I really started to dislike billg.

    my $.02
  • Cause we _know_ the OS. Dang, I'm about 9% of the way through a personal Linux kernel code audit, all by myself. Then I'll start on "lilo" and then I think I'll hit "init". Before I'm dead I might get to "ls". I don't even have the time to call any support. And to think, Windows, that Intuitive User Experience, requires tech suppport? Ha!
  • by rho ( 6063 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @07:30PM (#2723478) Homepage Journal

    I like it when I ask a question (almost any question), and I get "RTFM" in response (sometimes with "luser" appended).

  • by ClubStew ( 113954 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @07:33PM (#2723512)

    Here at Iowa State University, linux is perceived as the god of all operating systems. More students are fed up with Microsoft and their holes, and even more faculty and staff, as well as departments, are following right along. Unfortunately, ISU signed off on a Microsoft campus agreement making linux on the average desktop a no-go, but most students who work in IT-related fields are installing linux. The Ames Area Free Unix Group for Information Technology (AAFUGIT [aafugit.org]) is rapidly growing and there is an increase in newby questions.

    I think the sample for this census should've been expanded to more Universities/colleges. Perhaps the places where this is really a problem is places like Vatterott and DeVry and what not, where people are trained to do a particular thing and not the science behind it. Anyway with a decent background in computer hardware and software can't deny the power of linux. As I've told many people I've converted, "if you really want to learn networking and what-not, you can't learn by clicking a few buttons (like in Windows) - you have to go to the source...in a matter of speaking."

    • Exactly (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SirWhoopass ( 108232 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @08:14PM (#2723772)
      In the article, the author describes his own institution as a "third-level educational establishment". This is not a university and these students have had (according to the article) exposure to Windows exclusively at school.

      These are not the system administrators or NASA programmers of tomorrow. They're getting a 2-year tech degree and then they'll be on the news bitching about how there are no good jobs in IT.

  • Unsurprising. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chris Johnson ( 580 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @07:33PM (#2723513) Homepage Journal
    The question to ask is, what does 'technical support' mean?

    Does it mean 'fix it for meeeeee! wah!'? If so, Microsoft stomps the hell out of Linux. Their whole _concept_, including for developers (see Visual Basic), is for there to be inner circles and outer circles, in a centralised authority structure. You can have teams of Microsoft insiders working themselves into ulcers for you if you need it- you do NOT get control, ownership of the product, or the final say. Guys like Ballmer expend HUGE effort into making sure the MS insiders ARE still willing to sweat blood to assist J. Random Developer (i.e. hold their hand, wipe their nose, fix their problem). If not for this huge effort ('developers developers developers developers!'), you would be unimaginably screwed dealing with them. The dependency relationship is based on an immense effort on Microsoft's behalf to be the caretaker.

    They could stop at any time (Ballmer dies, new CEO is bean counter or something) and it's worth considering just HOW hard Ballmer tries to keep the monolith centered on the needs of certain customers. HE knows that the natural reaction is to screw the customer, get lazy and stop providing good service since you've got them locked down anyhow.

    By comparison, if 'technical support' means 'give me the power to do it myself', it's tough to beat Linux, simply because you can get ownership of so much (for all practical coding purposes). For many projects it's easy to get full disclosure of source code. You get to fork off versions if you have a need- you get to incorporate other people's stuff into yours if you follow the licensing rules- there's no 'inner circle' to it at all, and so people get snippy if asked to behave like they are an inner circle. It's 'RTFM' because they know you have just as much capacity to fully acquaint yourself with the situation as they have- and they are not hired to help you, they produce things and you can TAKE them and HAVE them to do with as you will, again with full disclosure. The idea is to take advantage of that.

    The interesting comparison here is that this time, if anything drastic happens to Linux, your ownership of your parts of it, and your access to information and your effectiveness, are quite unchanged. It's not a dependency relationship, more like a forced self-sufficiency relationship. You get no support in dependency, but you get resources for self-sufficiency (including legal ones- the licensing) that you flat cannot get from Microsoft.

    The question becomes, what sorts of programmers are more relevant and useful to the world? Ones that seek dependency relationships, or ones that seek self-sufficiency relationships? I think there's something to be said for each, but you're a hell of a lot more likely to find cutting edge stuff in the latter camp- which will be pretty unpolished, but that's normal for innovation.

    You'll find less innovative software coming out of the dependency camp.

  • by the gnat ( 153162 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @07:39PM (#2723559)
    My university (one of the top in the US, supposedly) just started teaching the intro CS class (for non-coders) using C#. Why? God only knows. They used to teach it in Java- they switched from Pascal very early on, which was probably a bad choice. But now Java is superbly well-documented, and becoming an industry standard. C# may become an industry standard, but only because MS is behind it. So now that course is essentially Windows-only. (The standard data structures and systems programming courses are, of course, still done on Unix- by now, of course, in the form of RedHat 7)

    There are quite a few people who push Linux as the best and only solution. These people are dorks. However, most of us react more strongly to MS products being pushed as the best and only solutions because:

    - MS software pricing is an obscenity.
    - Linux companies haven't used illegal coercion to make their products the market leaders.
    - Until recently, people did not choose Linux-based solutions simply because they had the word "Linux" in them.
    - the possibility of single-vendor lock-in is virtually nonexistent for Linux.

    I work part-time in tech support here, and I cannot tell you how annoying it is to have to deal with all the Microsoft fanboys who think Windows is the final point in computing evolution. These are techincally astute students, among the brightest in the world, and incapable of dealing with anything that doesn't have the Start menu and Explorer. For my part, I'm glad I'm studying computational biology, where MS products are by and large recognized as utter garbage. If Windows ever becomes the platform of choice for serious scientific computing, I'm going to law school instead.
  • by SlashChick ( 544252 ) <erica.erica@biz> on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @08:10PM (#2723735) Homepage Journal
    I was really disappointed with this article. I was hoping that the author would explain some ways that Linux could fight the "only-for-geeks" perception. Perhaps he would even have a suggestion for how we could introduce Linux more easily to junior system administrators!

    But no, he lists the (common, cliched) reasons that Linux isn't fit for the desktop, and then goes on to deny them, point by point. He then throws in a little Microsoft-bashing, which makes the article seem less like a helpful "Where do we go from here?" and more like a "Linux rocks; I don't understand why everyone isn't using it" rant.

    Case in point: He cites the "infamous reliability" of Windows, then says: "it has become okay for a PC (running Windows) to crash once a day (or more often)." Since when? And since when does a non-9x OS from Microsoft crash more than once a day? I run Windows 2000, and it doesn't crash. If it crashes, it's a hardware problem. Applications crash, sure. But no one has yet solved the application crash problem. Windows NT and XP have about the same reliability. Uptimes of 5-100 days (which I have seen with Windows 2000) are perfectly fine for workstations, most of which get turned off at the end of the day, regardless. As much as I hate some of the features in Windows XP, I am still encouraging people to upgrade to it if they use a 9x-based OS. Folks, no computer should crash more than once a week, and you don't have to run around saying "Use Linux" if you want that type of reliability.

    The author then goes on to quote students who say "Linux is seen as a geek's OS. Programmers love it and that puts everyone else off." But instead of explaining how Linux can be more friendly to non-technical users, he cites the "anti-Linux FUD campaign coming out of Redmond". Microsoft or no Microsoft, Linux vendors and programmers are just now realizing that ease-of-use matters, even to technical professionals. Instead of addressing this need in his article, he points fingers at Microsoft, which isn't productive.

    One final comment which really irked me was his response to the following complaint: "The Linux command line is hard to learn and use." He responds with "No, it simply is not." How does this comment address the real issue? If your students feel that the command line is hard to use, give them a training manual. Better yet, sit down with them and explain that the command line may have a steeper learning curve, but show them how much more powerful it is!

    Let's be honest: there is a lot of FUD in the computer world, made worse by those who think they know what they are talking about. "Windoze crashes constantly. Linux is too hard to use." Instead of regurgitating the same old excuses, let's figure out how to work with these problems. Fight FUD with education, not with more mindless flaming of the supposed "enemy". If your friend says that the command line is too hard to use, don't blow him or her off and say "No it isn't! See, all you have to do is pipe it to wc -g." Instead, sit down, start from the beginning, and explain the benefits of your method of working!
    That is what the author should have done with his students.
  • by jdreed1024 ( 443938 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @08:14PM (#2723774)
    I see a lot of posts here claiming new students only know about AOL, MSN, Office XP, etc. Can you blame them? When Mom and Dad by them their new Dell Optiplex GX150 with a TFT display, does it come with Linux on it? Of course not.

    When I first came to MIT, I knew about Windows and MS Office. That was it. Was I criticized for running Windows? Was I sneered at by zekr1t n1Nj@ Haxxor dudez who were running Linux or NetBSD? No. Instead, someone suggested (nicely; not by saying "Try running a _real_ OS") that I give Linux a try - If I didn't like it, I didn't have to boot into it, and I would only have lost 300MB of hard drive space (those were the days). I was given a RedHat 4.0 network boot disk and the IP address of an NFS server, and I installed Linux. My friends were willing to help me learn things, and give me pointers. There is a community mailing list that people who use Linux can subscribe to and get their questions answered by other members of the community who've been using Linux for much longer. The people on this list didn't get annoyed or flame if you asked dumb questions, nor did they gve you snide "MS sux" remarks if you inquired how to mount a Windows partition in Linux. Because of that environment, I am now a competent Linux user, administrator, and halfway decent developer. You can't expect students to rise to that level if you only offer criticism.

    And can you blame students for using MS Office formats to exchange files? The media rarely mentions Linux without saying "hackers" and "computer crime" in the same sentence. Ignorant website developers and system adminsitrators think Microsoft Office is the only answer. I've even encountered people here at MIT who refuse to accept PDF documents, saying that they don't want to deal with the extra effort required to open them. (Who hasn't heard of Acrobat Reader?) In order for this bias to change, colleges need to foster an environment in which Microsoft Office is not the only format for exhanging documents. The campus computing environment here runs on a variety of platforms, including Solaris, IRIX, and Linux, so by default all course-related documents have to be in a format accessible from all platforms. This is accepted for the most part, and materials appear in HTML, PDF, and PostScript (though StarOffice has given some people an excuse to distribute .doc files). If other colleges start creating policies like this, that might just cut down on the Microsoft-centric atmosphere.

    Education is a key point in this topic, and colleges are a good place to start. I would venture to say that the majority of college students who only use Windows do so not because of choice, but because they are unaware of the alternatives, or because the alternatives seem daunting and unnecessary. These perceptions have to change before more college students will start using Linux.
  • reality (Score:4, Insightful)

    by staeci ( 85394 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @08:25PM (#2723832) Homepage Journal
    while 90% of the students arguments where false it is important to note that they:

    1 - Don't have any exposure to non-MS technology
    2 - Beleive everything they read in MS PR
    3 - Beleive that crashes and unreliability is a fact of life and unavoidable.
    4 - Are unaware of goings on in the rest of the computer world.

    And these are the people who are supposed to be our future computer experts and are more knowledgable than the common joes. God help us all.
  • by Black Art ( 3335 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @08:26PM (#2723837)
    Most of Microsoft's support is outsourced to companies like "Stream". You have to get past the initial levels of support to get to anyone who actually works for Microsoft.

    Stream has a VERY bad reputation. Unless the customer demands it, they hire and train just about anyone. They are kept to very strict call times, which insures the customer has to call back if the solution did not work.

    Most of the times I have dealt with Microsoft support, the standard "solution" is to reinstall the OS. (So much for all your system settings and preferences! If you use Kai texture explorer, you lose all your saved textures as well.)
    I ask anyone who thinks that Microsoft has good support just how many times they had to call them and why.
  • Linux Support. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SuperDuG ( 134989 ) <[kt.celce] [ta] [eb]> on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @08:53PM (#2723964) Homepage Journal
    EX. Connect to ANY major IRC server and pop into #Linux and Ask a question "How do I rename a file" ... if you are kicked, you are told RTFM. But low-and-behold a man rename ... or help rename doesn't HAVE and information.

    There is quite a problem with the active linux users thinking that they are almighty and superior. Personally I use both windows and linux and I have no problem answering questions for either OS. Both are a complete pain in the ass to use.

    If you have a problem with windows, you can call up your neighborhood 14 year old and get the problem fixed with a pepsi, if you have a problem with linux ... you can _try_ to get a support package or find a local lug to help you out, but that's not as conforting.

    The only thing keeping Linux alive right now is LUG's and their support for newbies. I have found that even inside LUG's you will find the egotistical types who want the user to "Learn on their own". My only problem with telling them to learn on their own is the simple fact that if they're question is "I don't have man pages installed what do I do" ... and you answer RTFM ... you just lost another linux user and their influence on other users.

    For every one user you convert to linux ... they will convert three more ... it works for drugs and religions ... so be it ... it will work for linux.

    • Re:Linux Support. (Score:3, Informative)

      by Erich ( 151 )
      $ apropos rename
      dpkg-name (1) - rename Debian packages to full package names
      mmove (1) - move or rename an MSDOS file or subdirectory TQ
      mren (1) - rename an existing MSDOS file TQ
      mv (1) - move (rename) files
      rename (1) - renames multiple files
      rename (2) - change the name or location of a file
      XStoreName (3x) - set or read a window's WM_NAME property
      XStoreNamedColor (3x) - set colors

      "man -k rename" would also have worked.

      See, they just don't know how to use the man pages. They should have "man man"ed. :-)
  • by J.J. ( 27067 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @08:58PM (#2723981)
    The fact that Redmond and Cupertino engineers have already ported (most of) the Office technology to Mac OS X indicates that a port to the X Window System would not be too difficult.

    He should add this to his 'clanger' section.

    The ease of porting Office to OS X has nothing to do with the ease of porting Office to X Windows. Microsoft has had a version of Office on Mac for years. The OS X environment has two sets of APIs for programmers: Carbon and Cocoa. Cocoa is the native OS X set of APIs. Carbon is a translation layer that maps the APIs from Mac OS 9 and below to the correct function calls on OS X.

    The ease of porting Office to OS X is due to the engineers at Apple who created OS X.

    Fight FUD with FUD!

  • A real case (Score:5, Funny)

    by jsse ( 254124 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @10:10PM (#2724247) Homepage Journal
    I don't know the charge elsewhere, that's the case here:

    "Hello Microsoft support, what can I help you?"

    "I got a problem...."

    "We'll charge $179 for each probblem instance, 3 instances minimum."

    "So...the minimum charge for raising a support call is....$537 right?..."

    "Right you are....what is your second question?"

    Sorry I made the last one up, but the rest is real. :)
  • by didyaseethat ( 539691 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @10:38PM (#2724327)
    At my university (of Arizona), MS sponsors all sorts of activities for the CS department. This has a huge influence on what the student hear and think. I'm a CS minor, its a hobby, and all the TA's for the intro course, in Java no less, are all MS "enthusiasts." Its an odd sight looking around at the kids grinning like idiots over their Windows based laptops, and the "teachers" wearing XBOX caps. The Prof did an informal survey at the begining of the course, and like others suggested, by far most students are in it for the money, having little previous computer experience. They are ripe for the picking by MS. It is really sad. The CS department wouldn't even set up remote homework collection for our class, because most of the TA's had no unix experience, and would not be able to access our turned in homework via ssh. At least every single piece of the UofA's network/ CS department servers are Unix. Its odd though, the fact that a school does not use MS products for their networks, yet breeds graduates that toe the MS line.
  • by Otter ( 3800 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @11:54PM (#2724582) Journal
    (Five hours and 450+ posts later, I finally get to read the article instead of a MySQL error. It's proabbly pointless to post now, but...)

    The article itself is mildly interesting, although it basically comes down to sending uninformed students to read all the FUD they can find on both sides and seeing what sticks. And the author doesn't seem to understand what Linux being free really means, and is wrong when he corrects his students about the cost of Windows. (If a PC costs the same with and without Windows, it is effectively free (beer) for you, even if someone ultimately pays for it.)

    But I thought the most interesting thing was this bit:

    Then the first shock came: someone blurted out, "nearly everyone who used Linux last year went on to fail their project". It came out that a number of individuals were missing from the final year due to failing the project element in year three. When I probed for the root cause of the project-failing problem, I got my second shock: "Linux is too hard to install".

    Uh, hello? Anyone see anything ominous about that anecdote? It seems odd to hear that account and decide that the problem is that users need to be convinced that Linux is easy to use.

  • by compumike ( 454538 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2001 @12:25AM (#2724683) Homepage

    A few months ago, I had an issue with sound under the latest 2.4 series kernels. This was with the trident driver and an ALi 1535+ southbridge. I have been using Linux as my sole desktop operating system for a while, and sound is very important for desktop/gaming use. This bug caused an OOPS when the module was loaded, which became a serious problem.

    I read Documentation/oops-tracing.txt, and I submitted my report with whatever information I could figure out. What did I get in response? Within four days, 7 people were talking on this thread, including kernel giants Alan Cox and RML. Within four days, I had a patch that made this problem go away. (turned out to be bigger than just my card)

    Do you really think that I could have gotten that kind of support from Microsoft? You might say that four days is a lot. But do you think I'd have ever gotten anywhere with MS? Even if I could get the level of debugging as I did from ksymoops, I'd have gotten shoved around. Microsoft would claim that its the manufacturer's responsibility, and the manufacturer would certainly not be receptive to any kind of technical description of a problem from a customer.

    We're the guys who call the DSL company and have to say "Your access concentrator is sending a PADT packet to terminate the session," with the only response being "Sir, can you tell me if your modem is on?" I've actually tricked at least 2 of their techies into believing that I'm running Windows.

    Verizon: Now open up Network Neighborhood.
    Me: Hold on a second. It's still warming up... Oh damn, it hung. Let me reboot.

    I didn't pay a cent for support. In exchange for a few minutes of my time learning to use ksymoops, I got replies from some of the top kernel developers, and got the problem fixed. Beat that, Microsoft.

    Michael F. Robbins

  • by StarTux ( 230379 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2001 @12:36AM (#2724720) Journal
    Linux itself when downloaded for free has no support, its even in the License agreement. So if you want a free copy, go ahead, just don't complain about support.

    This is what you should be looking for in terms of support:

    Purchase from a Linux vendor:

    Check to see what your purchase entitles you to, for most distro's this is a standard 30-60 day installation support.

    If you want more then most of the larger distrobutions will offer professional services as an extra offering, in fact this is common with large software products, check with the distro to see how much it is and what they can offer.

    Hardware vendor:

    The big one here is IBM. Never purchased from them, but it might be similer to what the distro's offer.

    In fact here is what they offer:

    Depending on customer need, IBM offers 24-hour a day, 7-days a week Internet and voice support, ranging from answering usage questions to identifying problems. IBM Global Services also provides consulting, planning and implementation services for Linux. IBM consultants can help you evaluate whether Linux is appropriate for your particular environment.

    Now, customers can turn to IBM Global Services as a one-stop shop for Linux support. For information on properly configuring and implementing, as well as enhancing, your Linux solutions or additional service and support offerings please call 1-888-426-4343.

    IBM operational support services

    IBM is here to support Linux at every step of the way on its remarkable journey. We've already dedicated $1 billion to Linux development and will invest more than $300 million in Linux services over the next three years.

    7x24 Enterprise Level remote support for your Linux OS environment.

    Fast and accurate problem resolution.

    A way to supplement your internal staff with IBM's skilled services specialists.

    Defect support for supported distributions of the Linux OS and Linux applications.

    Electronic support and problem submission that saves you time and allows you to track your open support issues.

    IBM's premier remote technical support for Linux
    An IBM Business Partner, Worklab develops its solutions with IBM e-business products such as IBM DB2 Universal Database for Linux, Lotus Notes and Lotus Domino.

    We help answer your how-to questions, help you define problems and determine their source. Additionally, by leveraging our partnerships with the key distributors of the Linux operating system, IBM is able to provide defect-level support for the Linux OS. Remote assistance is available through toll-free telephone access and electronic access. For all eligible distributions of the Linux operating system, we help you with:

    IBM is here to support Linux at every step of the way on its remarkable journey. We've already dedicated $1 billion to Linux development and will invest more than $300 million in Linux services over the next three years.

    usage and installation questions

    interpretation of product documentation

    product compatibility and interoperability questions

    a diagnostic information review to help isolate the cause of a problem

    configuration samples

    IBM and multivendor database searches

    planning information for software fixes

    defect support

    Electronic Support allows you to submit and get answers to your problems electronically.

    Not so bad, despite the majority of whining by users who want proffesional support for things that they freely downladed Linuxcare is still going, and yes you have to buy this support. Actually IBM use Linuxcare too.

    If you want free support for a free download, go to usenet or use mailing lists.

  • by cheinonen ( 318646 ) <cheinonen@hot m a i l .com> on Wednesday December 19, 2001 @01:12AM (#2724814)
    My senior project used PHP and MySQL on a Linux box, and when the time came for other students to review the projects of classmates, one student raised up her hand and asked "Can I not review or fail anything that uses Linux?". Seriously. I couldn't believe that a CS major would be that closed minded about an OS they probably should learn to get familiar with, but they were. Of course, the only other girl in the class had written a sound driver in Linux to get her senior project completed and was at the total other end of the spectrum.

    We didn't have to deal with UNIX/Linux much outside of a couple classes, though, so it was really easy for students to hate it, and not know how to use it, which was really quite sad.

  • by 4of12 ( 97621 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2001 @09:32AM (#2725463) Homepage Journal

    Microsoft has all the trappings of technical support. Call this 1-800-number. We have operators standing by. We employ more programmers than any other PC software house. We advertise that we have support.

    But the reality, when you really have a problem, is a less glitzy than the hype. Wait on hold unless you pay extra, be told to reboot, be told to reinstall the OS and apps in a new magic sequence, that it's a hardware maker that has the bad software driver, that the fix will be in the next Service Pack, etc.

    Linux OTOH has very sketchy official sounding support. Sure, 1-800 numbers for some paid-for distros, but if you ask Linux users, the vast majority get help out of the bazaar.

    And the surprising reality is just how successful such a support model can be. Someone in Germany with the same video card posted his XFree86 config file to Usenet. Go figure!

    It's a strange difference. On one hand, being told that you have a designated and well-described support channel that practically turns out to be unsatisfying in many regards, and on the other hand, being told to stake your critical need for help and assistance on a to-be-determined random unidentified stranger in an amorphous mass of users that practically turns out to be more satisfying than you ever expected.

    No wonder many people are confused.

"For a male and female to live continuously together is... biologically speaking, an extremely unnatural condition." -- Robert Briffault